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BBC Two and BBC Music to broadcast The 80s – Music’s Greatest Decade? With Dylan Jones

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To be broadcast on BBC Two in October, the multi-award winning journalist and author Dylan Jones celebrates the towering influence of the music of the 80s, with an aim to inspire a newfound respect for this maligned musical era.

He’ll argue that the 80s is one of the most inventive periods of pop culture – a kaleidoscopic display of musical experimentation in which genres were born and evolved with dizzying rapidity – and that whilst music continues to fascinate to this day, it will never be as varied as it was then.

The programme features contributions from Nile Rodgers, Mark Ronson, Jazzie B, Trevor Horn, Bananarama’s Sara Dallin & Keren Woodward, Gary Kemp, Mark Moore, Cookie Crew’s Cookie Pryce and Suzie Q, Bobby Gillespie, UB40’s Ali Campbell & Astro, The Fall’s Brix Smith, Sarah Jane Morris and more.

Lorna Clarke, BBC Controller, Pop, says: “I’m delighted that we’re going to dissect the impact and influence of the 80s decade, culturally – an experimental period of time that divides opinions hugely.”

Dylan Jones says: “Interminable television programmes still suggest the whole episode was nothing but a calamitous mistake, a cultural cul-de-sac full of rotten records by shameful individuals with orange skin and espadrilles. I’m here to tell you this couldn’t be further off the mark.”

In the first episode, against a colourful background of archive from the BBC vaults and beyond, Dylan sets out his claim: that the 80s was the most creative musical decade ever. He’ll assert that the 80s, unlike other decades, was undefinable by monolithic musical movements such as punk, disco or Britpop, and unleashed a myriad of new musical genres in just 10 years. To support his theory, he’ll hear from some of the leading musicians and producers of the era, who were at the forefront of the incredibly diverse music creation.

Speaking in the programme, Nile Rodgers says: “The 80s was the pinnacle for a lot of us musicians who had come from the 60s and the 70s. Reaching that place you had this great explosion of artistry in the 80s that ran the gamut.”

Keren Woodward from Bananarama says: “You’d hear something and think, oh that’s Bananarama, that’s Culture Club, that’s Duran Duran – and everyone looked their own way as well.”

Episodes two, three and four will feature a mixture of archive performance and music video, handpicked by Dylan, which explore themes including the MTV generation (artists who benefitted from being ‘super-produced’); the birth of hip hop, the emergence of house and the rise of the rebels, who deliberately eschewed all they believed to be ostentatiously 80s.

Some of the artists explored in the series include Madonna, Duran Duran, Eurythmics, The Sugarhill Gang, Public Enemy, Bronski Beat and Erasure.

The 80s – Music’s Greatest Decade? With Dylan Jones is produced by Plimsoll Productions. The Executive Producer is Siobhan Logue. It was commissioned by Owen Courtney, Commissioning Editor and Jan Younghusband, Head of Commissioning for BBC Music TV.

To accompany this series, on Friday 29 October, Radio 2’s weekly step back in time, Sounds Of The 80s with Gary Davies (Fridays, 8pm-10m), will see Dylan Jones share four of his favourite 80s songs and why they are so special to him, as part of Sounds Of The 80s regular feature, My 80s.

Recent and upcoming BBC Music programming

Recent highlights on BBC Music television include When Nirvana Came To Britain (BBC Two). The documentary features new interviews with former band members Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic. It tells the story of how between 1989 and 1994, Nirvana introduced a new brand of rock music to the UK, changing the musical landscape of the time and influencing a generation of British youth. The programme was part of Nirvana Nevermind At 30 on the BBC, which also saw 6 Music, BBC Radio 4 and BBC Four celebrate the anniversary of this iconic album. All programming is still available to watch on BBC iPlayer and listen on BBC Sounds.

On Thursday 9th September, BBC Four and BBC 6 Music also provided live coverage of the Mercury Prize 2021, bringing viewers and listeners performances, interviews with the shortlisted artists and the all-important announcement of this year’s winner, Arlo Parks, from the Eventim Apollo in Hammersmith. Catch up on all the action on BBC iPlayer and BBC Sounds.

In October, BBC Radio 2 and BBC Two are celebrating the 80th birthdays of one of the most successful singing duos ever, Paul Simon (13 October) and Art Garfunkel (5 November). Simon and Garfunkel are known for their hit songs including Bridge Over Troubled Water, The Sound Of Silence and Mrs. Robinson. They have won multiple Grammy Awards and have sold over 100 million records worldwide.

BBC Radio 2 will give listeners another chance to hear Sunday Night Is Music Night – Bridge Over Troubled Water: 50th Anniversary on Sunday 10 October (7pm-9pm), which features vocalists including Will Young, Katie Melua and the cast of The Simon & Garfunkel Story – Adam Dickinson and Cameron Potts – performing the album, accompanied by the 60-piece BBC Concert Orchestra.

Also on demand on BBC Sounds from Sunday 10 October: Tracks Of My Years: Simon And Garfunkel, which will see names including Ricky Gervais, Paul Merton Carrie Underwood and Elaine Paige – who have all picked songs by the duo as their Tracks Of My Years on Ken Bruce’s show in the past – discussing why these songs are important to them. Plus You Can Call Me Paul – Johnnie Walker meets Paul Simon; and The Art of Garfunkel – Johnnie Walker meets Art Garfunkel.

BBC Two and BBC Four will both show Simon & Garfunkel – The Harmony Game, in which Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel talk openly about the extraordinary creative period in their careers – the making of Bridge Over Troubled Water. The programme reveals the story behind what was to become their final album – one which has long been shrouded in rock ‘n roll mythology. The channels will also show Simon & Garfunkel: The Concert In Central Park. This performance, on 19 September 1981, drew one of the largest audiences ever assembled for a single concert and features all of their great hits newly arranged for an expanded 11-piece band. Songs include Mrs. Robinson, America, Me & Julio Down By The Schoolyard, and Late In The Evening.

Also in October, Later…with Jools Holland returns for a new six-part series on BBC Two. Jools will welcome guests to his south London studio, for a personal trip through the Later… archive as well as discuss their lives and careers. Plus there will be the broad mix of live performance from both established and emerging artists that the show is famed for. In the last series of Later… which aired in May, Jools was joined by Noel Gallagher, St. Vincent, Imelda May, Joan Armatrading, Romesh Ranganathan and Kano, who chose archive performances from artists including The Strokes, Al Green, PJ Harvey, Lou Reed, Skepta and Dizzee Rascal. The series also saw new performances from The Black Keys, Jorja Smith, Laura Mvula, Sigrid, Little Simz, Van Morrison, Emma-Jean Thackray, Joel Culpepper and Self Esteem.

The BBC will support National Album Day on Saturday 16 October, with programming on BBC TV, BBC iPlayer, BBC Radio and BBC Sounds.